Manufacturers of audio electronics are sometimes reproached for excessive unification, erasing dear family features in the equipment. It comes to the point that absolutely identical designs are found under completely different appearance. However, even clones, as we know, can sound (and sound!) Differently. Let’s check?
Such an identity in itself (especially for related brands) does not raise any questions, and in this case it is even welcomed, because taking into account different finishes, we already get four equal devices in different designs. But the buyer, looking at the prices and taking into account some additional functionality of the model from Marantz (it has an FM tuner, a third component video input and a second display, and another remote control is also included in the kit – with a backlight) will surely ask: why is this version more expensive by as much as 40 thousand?
We will further analyze this question on the shelves. But first, a small digression. In modern AV electronics, there really is a lot of unified equipment and sometimes you hear advice from the sellers themselves: take, they say, option B, because it is absolutely the same as A, only cheaper. In the mass segment, this happens all the time – the same equipment at different prices can be produced either under different brands, or come, for example, from local localized production.
AV receiver Marantz SR7015
However, in Hi-Fi, even a cloned version is never identical to the main one. Sophisticated high-end audio components may differ even within the same model of the same brand – say, due to a new revision of printed circuit boards, due to capacitors and resistors of a different batch, due to a change in the supplier of connectors, internal wiring and connection cables … Little things? In general, yes, but they can all have an impact on the character of the sound, although the passport characteristics of the components will not change one iota at all.
That is why large reputable manufacturers are trying to take control of all stages of production, from the supply of parts to the final control of the assembly. At the same time, they often provide development departments with some freedom in choosing parts and element base even at the design stage – just in order to achieve “class” differences and a recognizable “corporate sound” with minimal means.
AV receiver Denon AVC-X4700H
A reference, one might say, example of such an approach is in front of us. Both receivers belong to the same class. They are made on the same assembly line. Their design uses the same functional blocks and, at first glance, everything that belongs to the “base” is generally indistinguishable: a transformer, a stabilizer and a power buffer on a pair of the same type of “cans” Nichicon, a nine-channel section of power amplifiers, an HDMI board (by the way, the most modern – meets advanced 8K specifications). At the same time, the technique was developed by different teams of engineers. Are we right to expect a different sound?
AV receiver Marantz SR701 5 connection on the rear panel
So let’s check it out. Since all theatrical functions of the Marantz SR7015 and Denon AVC-4700H are identical (the receivers decode Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos, DTS HD Master and DTS: X, and also have additions such as Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, DTS Neural: X and Virtual: X, Auro 3D and IMAX Enhanced) and, in addition, are implemented on the same processing platform (we specially checked this fact), which includes Audyssey MultEQ XT32 auto-calibration and 13-channel sound output from “preouts”, it is logical to leave all this economy alone and look at how both receivers will show themselves in stereo when playing test files from a USB flash drive. At the same time, we will find out how musical and pure their paths are, without any processing and enhancers.
AV receiver Denon AVC-X4700H rear panel connection
The first is to launch the already familiar Denon AVC-4700H. With InAkustik LS-804 Air speaker cables and Focal Spectral 40th floor standing speakers, we get a slightly aggressive, but still very transparent sound. The acoustics have such a resolution that the barely expressed transistor nature of the amplifiers becomes noticeable. You can also notice a slight selection of “humming” shades in the 150 – 250 Hz region, but this does not mean that Denon power supplies are not able to cope with the load. Therefore, in general, we note the result as very good – to admit, we did not even count on such a clear and open handwriting from the theatrical AV-receiver.
AV receiver Marantz SR7015 inside
The scene is cool, with decent depth and distinct foreground localization. The dynamics are excellent – full and fast. Bass in the lowest spectrum almost lacks weight, but this is even for the best – standing waves do not start in the room. The middle unambiguously captivates with intelligibility – all the important nuances are there, the timbres are rich and truthful. The fact that the receiver uses non-top grade DACs (AK4458) can only be guessed by some simplification of micro-detailing and “atmospheric”.
Everything described above applies to Pure Direct mode. If the Denon AVC-4700H is switched to the normal mode, which implies full processor processing, then a slight caustic shade appears in the sound (but it is far from frankly digital, so everything is in order). In the manner of presentation, the device perfectly matches blues, rock and any driving music. He easily handles acoustic compositions, vocals and jazz, while at the same time showing all the benefits of good audiophile recordings.
AV receiver Denon AVC-X4700H inside
It cannot be said that the Marantz SR7015 under the same conditions proved to be a device of another school, but there were fundamental differences. First and foremost, it is softer. Drive here is expressed through solidity. The lower case is more full and the top is not so subtly pointed. The middle is served almost as textured and clear, but Denon in this band tries to be indicatively melodious and neutral, and Marantz seems to add calm velvet shades here, which, by the way, is not so noticeable and small buzzing accents in high bass (which with acoustics The Marantz SR7015 also featured Focal).
At first impressions, Marantz sounds “more expensive” – it is more comfortable, it has more plastic and less transistor – even when working with the “sharp” LS-804 Air cable. But the living “air” in it is less than that of Denon. And the micro-detail, even in the pure direct mode, is more disguised – the path as if on purpose leaves only the most “tasty” musical details, and removes all other “roughness” from the field of vision. Hence – and a different emotional content.
Comparison of remote controls
The vocals and organ music sound wonderful on Marantz, the classics are also meaningful and large-scale, and from any source (we listened to a lot of music on it and through HEOS from the network storage). But the rock tracks are not too hooligan, and the hip-hop tracks are even slightly academic.
But back to the beginning – why is Marantz both more expensive and sounding different? By the way, some differences can be seen from the rear side: the RCA connectors of the Marantz SR7015 are gold-plated, the output screw terminals are made of transparent plastic, and all the mounting screws are covered with copper. Now let’s remove the covers from each apparatus. As you can see, they are really identical. The absence of a sticker on the transformer and an otherwise laid control loop can hardly be considered something that influenced the cost. However, the difference is not only in the little things.
First, the Marantz is not so tightly packed. Secondly, it has a different control and indication board. Thirdly, the Denon front part is shielded from the inside, while the Marantz SR7015 is just a little further away from the radiators of the power amplifier. Fourth, the vertical risers are also different, which connect the top HDMI section to the bottom “motherboard”. And the last one from Marantz, judging by the description, should also have proprietary HDAM assemblies (you can’t see them without a complete disassembly of the device, so we’ll take the manufacturer’s word for it).
AV receiver Marantz SR7015
However, what can be seen here is enough. On the same-looking terminals, different electrolytes are still used. Marantz engineers opted for the Elna RA2 capacitors (brown – visible in the right photo), which were designed specifically for audio applications. And Denon did a trickier thing – some were replaced with standard capacitors (and of a different value!), And the most responsible ones were replaced with black Elna RFOs belonging to the Pure Pro audiophile line. At the same time, they also revised the circuit – they removed one electrolyte in each amplification channel. Here is the answer to the question why the sound is different here.
With the price, everything became finally clear when we looked into the service documents. The full part list for the Marantz SR7015 indicates that the device is assembled from almost 5.5 thousand parts, while the Denon AVC-X4700H has 600 fewer of them. And if we proceed purely from a mathematical proportion, then the Marantz receiver even looks somewhat underestimated relative to its relative. If you choose him in the end, then drive away from yourself any thought about any overpayment. Everything is fair.